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Redrose Developments Ltd.

As one of six partners Redrose Developments Ltd is part of an ERASMUS project ‘Feed the World 2050’, the project includes three French partners, two partners from Ireland and one from Holland.  The range of students involved include primary, secondary and third level, the partners are two second level schools, a primary school and a technical college, the team also involves an expert in Plankton from France and Redrose as the industrial partner.

The deliverables from the Irish perspective is to consider how seaweed can be used as a protein source for the future, 14 students from TY (Transition Year) group 2017-2018 have been foraging a range of seaweeds, under careful tuition.  They have been given the skills to identify a range of edible and tasty sea vegetables and have created several recipes.

In November 2017 a celebrity Chef Jo Shannon hosted an evening with the students who competed in a ‘cook-off’, winning exciting prizes and producing a range of colourful, healthy and tasty foods.

This year group also hosted and visited students from Quimper in France and engaged with the local community involving local politicians to help raise awareness of the project and its aims

A night of bowling with students and dinner at the Gateway, and introducing the project to Senator Rose Conway-Walsh

Engaging with wider community about the project is one of the key deliverables and the 2017-2018 students were actively involved with the Explorer’s program.  They attended National Schools and spoke about their experience and help to select the winner of a competition around Ocean Science

The handover to 2018-2019 TY students was a colourful, tasty and musical event with invited guests to launch the new students into an exciting year, with new recipes and ideas about how to encourage consumers to eat more seaweed:

 

 

Seaweed chowder                          Carrageen mouse                         Seaweed scones                     

The year group 2018/2019 involving 14 TY students have visited Leeuwarden in Holland, where they were hosted by older students who are actively involved in cultivating micro algae and experimenting with recipes that they can produce at scale with the facilities offered with the college.

The Irish students from both groups have been foraging for seaweed identifying a wide range of edible plants and creating recipes to be included in a book for publication as part of the partnership contribution.

Recognising some of the health benefits and the commercial potential of seaweed, students have also produced soap using seaweed.  The natural benefits of specific sea plants which include moisturising and for use with sensitive skin, with many people finding seaweed an excellent method to reduce impacts from skins conditions such as psoriasis and eczema:

Students studying seaweed aquaculture, following the format of the QQI Level 5.  This involved independent research and peer to peer learning.  This highly engaged group will now visit a site that is growing seaweed from cultures and view the growth of kelp being cultivated with the Marine Institute site in Galway.  This introduction into the process for hatchery and cultivation included STEM subjects in the following area:

  • Science: understanding the science of extracting and developing the spores for adhering to an appropriate medium, for evaluating quality assessment.
  • Technology: To transfer the seeds onto the carrier to be able to articulate the use of technology to support the aims of the project.  To measure, weigh, assess quality, quantity and use technology to support the required outcomes.
  • Engineering: To be able to determine the engineering elements of physically managing the seeded lines and to harvest the yield manage the weight and ensure protecting the quality of the plants.
  • Maths: was required to understand the volumes required to reach maximum yield and create a viable business model.

The delivery of the project was condensed due the nature of the school work timetable which demanded a more advanced style of learning, encouraging the students to work in small groups under pressure of time.  More suited to students at third level the TY student embraced the subject and the learning outcomes that were measured noted higher than anticipated results.

The focus on community engagement is high on the agenda for the project, students have undertaken a training course in the use of radio equipment to be professionally prepared to interview people within the community.  It was considered by the group that the perception of seaweed was the greatest challenge to address.  By interviewing people and gaining an understanding of the current view about seaweed and its potential contribution would be the first stage in driving an attitudinal change.  With support from international film maker Richie O’Donnell the Irish students will be making a short film considering how attitudes might be challenged.

Meeting with local people of influence is also seen as key factor when engaging with the local community.

Students pictured with local Counsellor Theresa Whellan.

Seaweed Cultivation:

As the ERASMUS project focuses on ‘Feeding the World 2050’ and the scale of protein required to feed over 9 billion, if Plankton and algae is a viable option it is apparent that we need to considered farming our ocean.  Seaweed cultivation both Micro (single celled algae mostly land based cultivation) and Macro algae (seaweed – grow at sea) will need to be developed at scale.  Micro algae farms are established in many continents and often require warm and humid conditions to promote healthy growth, although new systems are being developed allowing for home growing.  For scaled production of Micro algae Ireland with its cool and temperate weather systems is on suitable for large scale micro algae.

micro algae plant
micro algae plant

 

However, the weather systems in and around Ireland favour the production and growth of brow kelps (macro algae) grown at sea on long lines.  The various species that can be successfully grown using this method are increasing and the application for such plants extends beyond edible plants into medicinal, cosmetic and plant bio-stimulants.  The nutritional value of such plants which can be introduced into our diets are many and varied, (details can be seen on Nutritional values page).

Kelp plants cultivated on long-lines at sea
Kelp plants cultivated on long-lines at sea

In March 2019 students from Leeuwarden visited Ireland and joined the Irish students in making a commercial product:  Seaweed Soap and then took part in a ‘Dragons Den’ style competition

Innovation in Action – Flat Bed Cultivation – Sugar Kelp

During the visit with the Dutch student’s early trials cultivating two types of brown seaweeds using a new flat bed system, the first time trialled in Ireland.  The outcomes were positive with some of the young Sugar Kelps reaching 42cm in length demonstrating commercial potential

An analysis of the sugar kelp indicated that the young plants have higher levels of proteins than the winter or spring crops of fully-grown plants:

Below are the results for protein. I used 4.17 factor to convert nitrogen% into protein%.

7.1616  January 2019 Winter crop grown plant
     
9.0566  March 2019 Spring crop grown plant
     
13.2320  March 2019 Cultivated 5 weeks old

Conclusion

As we approach the end of the project there is much to consider in terms of achievement.  The students will all have a better understanding of the impact of an increasing population and the requirement to feed over 9 billion people and maintain healthy levels of proteins without overharvesting on land and using excessive amounts of fresh water to cultivate land-based plants.  The knowledge of an undersea world and eco-structure that is the source of all life in all its beauty and complexity as seen through the eyes of children and adults alike.  The awe-inspiring provenance that the ocean has to offer and the responsibility that each of us has in terms of protecting our future.  Everyone involved in this project has accepted a wider responsibility to inform a wider population of the importance of algae in all of its forms and the impact that it has played both historically and will play in our future.

It has been a privilege to work with dedicated professionals who, as well as the ‘day job’ found the time, the enthusiasm and commitment to work on an extra-curricular project that has such value. I would like to thank all partners, students and the EU funding mechanism that is ERASMUS for making this project possible and hope that the content and outcomes of this piece of work can be shared broad and wide and help the world to realise the amazing potential for algae to FEED THE WORLD 2050

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